CLEARWATER – There are a lot of different ways that people can relax and socialize together. They can organize a picnic, a card game, or a movie night, for example.
But if you happen to be a part of the organization American Mensa, you might have a different idea.
How about getting together, forming a circle, and reading a Shakespeare play together.
George Zadorozny, a Tampa area attorney and member of the Tampa Bay chapter of American Mensa, did just that on Sunday, calling it his Reader’s Theatre. It was a group reading of what he said was one of Shakespeare’s “shorter” plays, “Pericles.”
But with multiple acts to get through, it wasn’t a quick read.
“If we get a lot of people, we’ll be splitting up parts, because it is a five-act play,” Zadorozny said as his fellow Mensans began filling into the room. “This is a Reader’s Theatre, which is not a term I was familiar with until I watched ‘Dr. Who.’ “
Welcome to Mensa.
American Mensa, of course, is an organization with more than 57,000 members across the nation. To qualify for Mensa, members score in the top 2 percent of the general population on an accepted standardized intelligence test.
On Memorial Day Weekend, the Tampa Bay chapters hosts an annual regional gathering, and this year’s event was called the Solar nRG, and held at the Holiday Inn at Clearwater.
Inside the spacious programs room at the Holiday Inn, Zadorozny set out to demonstrate that there was plenty of fun to be had reading the works of one of theater and literature’s greatest authors.
“I wanted to get a bunch of people to sit in a semi-circle and read Shakespeare,” he said. “There’s about 20 different parts, and the lead part we’ll split among several people. I’m not a professional actor, but we can just read out loud and enter into the mesmerizing world of Shakespeare.”
Shakespeare, of course, can be found outside of theaters large and small all the time. In New York City, the Public Theatre has a free Shakespeare in the Park program every summer. “Over the past 50 years, more than 5 million people have enjoyed productions at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park for free,” the group notes on its web site.
In Orlando, the Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre often performs the Bard’s plays at the Disney Amphitheatre at Lake Eola Park.
For Zadorozny, a Mensa weekend gathering was another excellent opportunity to rediscover the joys of reading and experiencing Shakespeare’s diverse body of work.
“ ‘Pericles’ is one of four romances, but it’s not ‘Romeo And Juliet,’ ” he said. “As a romance, it’s a kind of special fairy tale. It’s a tragedy with a luminous, ecstatic ending.”
Known by the full title “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” it’s a Jacobean play written at least in part by Shakespeare. “Pericles” is unique among Shakespeare’s dramas in that it’s not really a tragedy or a political chronicle, but more of a dashing, sweeping historical epic.
The play opens in the court of Antiochus, the king of Antioch, who has offered the hand of his daughter to any man who can answer his riddle. But there’s a stern warning attached to it. Anyone who gets the answer wrong will be executed.
Pericles, the young Prince of Tyre, hears the riddle, and figures out its meaning in a twist that should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen “Oedipus Rex” or the movie “Chinatown.”
“This one has many harrowing twists and turns, but one of the most glorious endings in literature,” Zadorozny said.
In addition to the Reader’s Theatre, the regional gathering also included a Movie Night, discussions on Buddhism and alternative medicine, a Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament, a late night snack salsa bar, a treasure hunt and a trivial pursuit tournament.
Thomas Thomas, chairman of the Tampa Bay Mensa chapter, said the speakers not only have a wealth of useful information to share — but they are all members as well.
“With our guest speakers, we made a conscious effort to make sure every one of them was a Mensan,” he said. “When you have resources, you want to make sure you take advantage of them.”
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